The Passion of Newark’s first Latino mayor
City hall is in flux, left-behind Booker loyalists and veterans alike anguished over their future in Newark.
In the middle of it stands Acting Mayor Luis Quintana, who despite the turbulence seemed quite cozy in his new digs-the mayors office.
As I entered, Quintana greeted me in his typical manner, with a huge bear hug. I gathered there was a great deal that he wanted to cover during our conversation.
“I love this city, I really do love this city and I want to be a much different mayor, so there will be some significant changes during my time,” said Quintana, who replaced Senator Cory Booker and will serve until June 30th of next year.
Quintana says what’s important to him is putting forth initiatives to empower women, specifically abused women.
The mayor’s mother, Margaret, was raped at the age of 14 and physically and emotionally abused. Quintana admits his mother suffered through renal cancer, which he says was caused by years of physical abuse.
Quintana has a picture of his mother prominently hung on his office wall.
I could tell this was a difficult conversation for Quintana. Although several years have passed since his mother’s death his emotion was raw and palatable. This is a man who loved his mother.
As he tearfully spoke of her, he said, “My mother had nothing, absolutely nothing. She came to the United States illiterate, a victim of rape and jobless. But my mother worked really hard, she found a job as a seamstress and sent for us in Puerto Rico, her life goal was to have her children close to her love and support us. I owe her everything. She was the best women I’ve ever known! I’m the man I am because of her.
“I want to empower women, I don’t think women really had a chance to succeed during the previous [Booker’s] administration and a lots of women’s concerns weren’t heard, much like my mother’s concerns weren’t heard and I want to change that,” Quintana added.
He said a major goal will be to start a foundation and center called “Margaret’s Help,” a center where women and children who have been abused can go and be safe and get help.
“A place where my mother never had an opportunity to go,” said the emotional mayor.
He said he’d work on making the police department more efficient and take cops off administrative duty and reassign them to the streets and boarder control. “Our kids are out there dying and our streets have been unmanned -and I’m working on fixing that.”
Other changes proposed are the elimination of deputy mayors. Revenue realized for BCDC or other quasi-government organizations will be re-appropriated to lessen Newark’s deficit. Quintana said the process will be decentralized and run more like a 600 million dollar corporation where the CEO makes the final decision.
The current council is split along racial lines, with one group consisting of East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador, At-Large councilman Carlos Gonzalez and led by Mayoral hopeful Anibal Ramos, and the other led by Mayoral candidate Ras Baraka, and including Councilwoman Mildred Crump and newly elected Councilman-At Large John James.
Perhaps the two most powerful seats on council belong to West Ward Councilman Ron Rice, who has opted out of reelection for relocation to DC; and Mayoral hopeful Central Ward councilman Darrin Sharif.
Sharif is running for mayor without the help of his father, political sensei, Carl Sharif. The senior Sharif has opted to support his son’s opponent Shaver Jeffries instead.
Both council Rice and Sharif will decide who will be the next council president. Councilwoman Mildred Crump was nominated for the position, however she failed to get the necessary votes. A councilmember speaking on condition of anonymity said “Crump winning the seat is unlikely as she has burnt too many bridges and is trying to bully her way through the process-it’s a turnoff.” The most likely candidate, insiders say, is Rice. He’s even keel and has maintained goodwill with all of his colleagues and has no other apparent political ambitions after May.
Mayor Quintana said he will not get involved.
“I respect my colleagues and their decision-making process, as such that decision should be left to them.”